My Illlustrated Travel Journal with Essays about Roman and Mediaeval History and some Geology
The Centurion Found the Stones
And poor Gaius Numerius and Quintus Didius are back at work.
The wine has not been found, but an investigation about the illegal trade of Roman weapons has been started. It could take some time, though, and the culprits will most likely be back in Rome by then and produce some evidence supported by high ranking patrons that they never did anything wrong.
As far as I know, the Roman army was the only one that regularly tasked the soldiers with building forts and border defenses or constructing roads. They also never entrusted the auxiliaries with those jobs. Made by Romans meant something back then. :)
Copyright of the comic unidentified.
Building the Wall
The Hadrian's Wall between Housesteads and Birdoswald counts as the most scenic part, though I doubt the Roman soldiers who built the Wall had an eye for the landscape. For them, it was difficult terrain in an alien country.
For some reason, the guys had taken a liking to olive tree groves, vineyards and sunshine, not to mists and windswept mountains. ;)
Housesteads, view from Vircovicium fortress
"It's raining, it's cold, we're out of stones and the centurion is in a mean mood because his local girlfriend kicked him out. Why did I join the army again?"
"Erm, regular pay, health insurance and retirement funds?"
"Health insurance? That damn medicus
told me I only have a cold and I'm not sick. And the pay was late twice
because the Selgovae keep attacking the escort. Next time they'll tell us to walk to Eboracum and get it ourselves; wait and see."
"Don't worry, Gaius Numerius, once we're done with this bloody wall, we'll get stationed elsewhere. Aegypt or Spain, maybe."
"With our luck it will be the German Limes
. Another place full of rain and savages. And trees." (*)Housesteads (not the original heigth, but you can see how broad the wall was)
Centurion marches up to them. " Gaius Numerius, Quintus Didius, why are you lazy sods sitting around? There's work to be done!"
"There are no more stones, centurion."
"Damn, what twit of a civilian in the staff has messed up this
time? The whole useless lot should be sent to the arena as fodder for the lions, it would be the one useful thing they did in their life."Near Walltown Crags (the line on the ridge of the hill is the wall)
"Centurion, it gets worse. The last wine delivery is missing as well, and some of those sleazy looking tribal warriors with those funny beards carry knives and spears that look suspiciouly like our manufacture ware."
"What?!" Centurion bangs hand on wall. "Ouw. Gaius Numerius, are you saying that someone is selling army equipment to the enemy?"
"I'm not saying anything. I'm just telling what I've seen. Don't want to get into trouble."
"Don't worry. Someone else will get into trouble this time. Get back to your tent, there's no use sitting out here in the rain. But ... as soon as I've found those damn stones, I want to see some very busy legionaries."
"Aye."One of the Walltown Crags
"What's that, did Titus Merula's girlfriend move back in?"
"I don't know. But let me tell you something, Gaius Numerius. There's one thing a centurion loves more than rasing hell for us legionaries."
"And what, Quintus Didius?"
"Raising hell for the civilian staff."Wall at Birdoswald
"I hope he'll find the missing wine as well, not only those damn stones."
"He will, believe me."
"Yeah, in the bellies of the staff and the tribunes. Spoiled brats, the lot."
"That they are. Well, let's follow orders and get inside, Gaius Numerius. There should be some beer left. And boar roast."
"Knowing our cook and his love for indigenous food, we'll end up with lukewarm cervisia
and boar in mint sauce." Mile castle near Birdoswald, view towards the fortress (to the left)
* Gaius Numerius is mistaken, of course. There are not only trees in Germania; we do have some vineyards as well.
beer is definitely not
The Caledonians Are Coming!
Today the view from the remains of a fortress tower or mile castle along the Hadrian's Wall shows a peaceful scenery.
View from the ruins of a mile castle near Birdoswald
Back when the towers still stood proud, a Roman sentinel on guard service may have seen something else.
Damn, not another bunch of those ill tempered Caledonian Celts! Exhibition at Birdoswald fortress
Hm, looks like they got some reinforcements from the continent. Some of those guys are really blond. Or is that our Batavian auxiliary? You never know what side they
are on.*Miniatures; Roman Army Museum
Some poor sod must have lost his sword. If the centurion sees all that rust, the guy will be in big trouble.Roman sword; Roman Army Museum
And that's what is left behind today. A wall to keep the tourists and their money in.Remains of the Hadrian's Wall near Birdoswald
* To be just, the Batavians were on the Roman side most of the time, except for that one big mutiny in 69 AD.
Not traveling around in the dark months of winter has its advantages; I finally manage to post some of my older photos. I take too many, that's the problem. ;)
Since I came back from my visit to the Saalburg fortress in 2007 with a lot of photos; I got some more for you. How about a few sharp and pointy toys for the big boys?
Roman swords of the gladius type, with metal (to the left below) and bone (upper rows left) sheath mountings, and sword strap buckles (to the right).
A spatha, a Roman cavalry sword. Those were longer than the gladius type and used to fight from horseback. In the later Empire, the spatha began to replace the gladius even for the infantry.
Spears and javelins, partly reconstructed. Nothing tops the Roman pilum, lol.
Btw, I found our friend Aelius Rufus. He was hanging out in the Leisure Centre in Caerleon, but I've dragged him home.
I'm not a specialist in Roman pottery, but I've seen enough of it to get an image what a Roman table may have looked like. I've also eaten from the replica of Roman tableware in restaurants that serve Roman dishes. Which make for some interesting taste experiences, but that's another topic. (And no, stuffed dormouse was not on the menu, lol.)
The terra sigillata style Roman pottery was a mass product; shards of it can be found pretty much everywhere the Romans stayed for longer than an hour, and trade spread it even outside the spheres of Roman influence.
Some terra sigillata (Saalburg Museum)
What struck me as an interesting variation when I visited the museum in the Saalburg Fortress
was another shelf with larger pots which were decorated with faces. I filed them under the Odd Things Roman category and pretty much forgot about them. Until I today came across a post in Adrian Murdoch's Bread and Circuses
blog, linking to an obituary
of Jill Braithwaite, an archaeologist specialising in those face pots.
Face pots can be found all over the Roman empire in the wake of the movements of the army. The Saalburg displays are finds from the area. Turns out they have nothing to do with food storage (like the amphorae
also displayed in the museum).Face pots (Saalburg Museum)
Obviously, at least some of those pots are connected with cremation burials. Sometimes, remains of human cremations have been found, and some pots were clearly located in cemeteries. The tradition stems from Italian burials where a number of pots display the face of Charon. It seems that the types of faces, often leering and grotesque, became more variable with further distribution, and local styles developed.
Another interesting aspect Mrs Braithwaite was exploring is the discovery that the style of those pots did not disappear from an area after the army left but lingered on in the civilian settlements. Someone else will now have to research this aspect further.
We got a real winter this year. It started a week ago with a very pretty hoarfrost.
The famous tree in front of my balcony
Then the temperatures demonstrated how far they can get down when they really want. The record was -24°C on the night to Tuesday. And I seem the only one to like
such temperatures, lol.View from the kitchen window (zoomed in a bit)
We got a bit snow, too. I took a few pics when it fell at night. The ones I took with a flash make the snow flakes sparkle; it's a very pretty effect.Snowfall at night
It's not enough for skiing, though. There is more snow in the Harz, but since I only have the weekends to myself these days, and the Harz is overrun by tourists who can't drive in winter, I haven't been there yet.Snow on my balcony
It's still very cold. It makes you wonder how people in pre-central heating times coped with winters like this. Those castles must have been freezing cold - the fireplaces were not enough to warm the large halls, though maybe the cooks were happy. Alianore has a post
about some cold winters during the time of Edward II.Trees in the garden after sunset
According to the forecast, the cold will stay with us a bit longer. Some more snow would be nice, of course, but you can't have everything. It's a lot more winter
than I got those last years, and I missed it.
Autumn at the Werra / Weser
Autumn is my favourite season, and it has truly arrived here. Not only with the flame coloured leaves and melancholical mists, but also with storms and rain, and the first hoarfrosts. But I captured some peaceful photos the other day, taken at my favourite spot at the Werra/Weser river.
View from Normanstein Castle
The Werra, linguistically the same as the Weser (the Roman Visurgis), is another of those typical German rivers surrounded by mountains and fertile plains where the valley widens. It runs through northern Hessia, the ancient land of the Chatti, and Thuringia back to its spring in Eisfeld. Like most German rivers, its main direction is south to north to either the Baltic or the North Sea (the Werra / Weser runs into the North Sea).
Werra river in the autumn sun
It is an area rich in history as well, all the way back to the Roman camp in Hedemünden close to where the Werra confluences with the Fulda and is then called Weser.
Another - rather hazy - view from the Normanstein to the Werra and Treffurt
Thuringia, which had been part of eastern Germany, is on my list to explore a bit more. I hope you don't get tired of castles and cathedrals. *grin*
A reconstructed Medieaval boat on the Werra
This one is a reconstructed river merchant ship we stumbled across by chance in the Schlagd
, the old harbour of Wanfried. The Schlagd
of Wanfried was a change harbour where goods from the ships were loaded upon pack animals and wagons for further transportation.
Old guest house at the Schlagd in Wanfried
Today a nice little town on the border between Hessia and Thuringia, Wanfried was involved in several feuds in the Midde Ages.
The photos below are from the part of the river known as Weser.
Meadows and woods at the Weser
The fields are plown, the winter wheat starting to sprout. Red and yellow leaves rustle in a breeze still warm with memories of summer.
An old orchard
Grazings and orchards down at the river, woodcovered mountains, haze-veiled, rising behind.
I love to just sit and watch the dark waters flow by and the sun vanish behind the hills. And I think maybe Arminius has sat here as well, finding a moment of peace.
Westwork of Bursfelde Abbey
Traces of the past: the the west towers of the Romanesque abbey church in Bursfelde
, surrounded by some former abbey buildings.
A river of history and myth
The leaves begin to turn yellow and red, and on a hazy day, a golden shimmer lies over the woods. We've had the first autumn gale that sent the leaves dancing and the crows swirling towards the town with angry croaks. Mists veil the valleys in the morning, and the air smells of wet leaves and coming frost.
Woods at the Weser
It is my favourite time of the year. Somehow I always wax a lot more poetic when describing fall than spring. Maybe it's the gentle melancholy of this time that responds to my mood, the muted light and warm colours.
A hidden lake
Of course there are other days, too, days of what one website called Varus weather. Torrential rains and icy blasts that make the ground slippery and bend the branches. Days where you want to stay inside with a cup of hot tea and listen to the rain drops singing on the window panes